Chinese Proverb

"Tell me and I'll forget. Show me and I may remember. Involve me and I'll understand." - Chinese Proverb.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Lesson #38 (Jazz #4 12/16/11): More bowing

We went over some bowing technique during this lesson as well. We didn't really go over jazz stuff, just bowing technique, but I'm going to label these blogs "Jazz" so I can keep track of who I took the lessons with.

I implemented some corrections from Adam's lessons and wanted to make sure I was doing them correctly, and since Adam was going on vacation I reviewed my changes with Clayton instead.

I feel kind of bad asking them the same questions some times, but I really don't want to waste time practicing something that's incorrect. There's nothing I hate more, than practicing something that is incorrect and then having to correct it later!

Lesson notes:

  • I explained to Clayton that Adam wanted me to produce a "lighter" sound because I was getting a fairly bad crunching sound
    • My sound definitely wasn't as harsh as my previous lesson with Adam, but Clayton did notice that I was still pushing down on the string instead of moving the bow horizontally which Adam had also suggested 
    • I'm afraid of losing contact with the string and getting that horrible skating sound, so I tend to be heavier with my bow than what is needed 
      • Clayton recommended that I work on and get used to making a sound using as little weight and effort as possible
      • Also, that I shouldn't worry about "losing control" of the bow. Apparently it's causing unnecessary tension
  • As far as working on my harsh sounding bow strokes, Clayton recommended:
    • Working on grabbing and releasing the string horizontally to avoid pushing down
      • He had me try it a few times, and I came to the realization that I didn't have to do much to grab the string. Even just laying the bow lightly on top of the string still grabs the strings a little bit! 
      • Before coming to this realization, I thought moving the string entailed making a sizable "dent"  in the string to move it, but I can actually wiggle the string sideways without creating a big "dent"
    • Working closer to the fingerboard
      • He went over how to produce different sounds by playing close to the bridge or fingerboard, which I knew, but let him explain it anyway. Hopefully, I didn't have a bored expression on my face! :). Although I'm glad I held my tongue and let him explain it again because I came to another realization: 
        • I can produce the same volume as when I bow in the "middle of the highway" as when I'm bowing closer to the fingerboard, it just sounds different! 
        • This has been explained to me before, but it finally clicked! I had thought that bowing close to the fingerboard ALWAYS equals LESS volume, which is not necessarily true! Since I've been working on getting more volume I tended to avoid that area
    • Moving the bow closer to the fingerboard definitely helped, I was able to have a cleaner, more open sound and was able to move my bow more quickly for the quarter notes, and it got rid of most the harsh sounding quality

Bow hand flexibility 
Clayton also noticed that my hand was fairly tense and not that flexible - guilty as charged! :). Something I'm quite aware of! I have the same issue in dancing as well.

So he assigned some "finger games" to do while I watched t.v., which is driving my husband nuts! He hates it when I do stuff while we're watching t.v. because it distracts him. :).

The exercises are supposed to help with the flexibility of my hand and also help me gain more control over the bow. I've been doing them fairly frequently since this lesson and my pinky and the side of my palm get fairly sore! I didn't realize my pinky was so weak and that I wasn't using my pinky when I should have been, and that my fingers are NOT very coordinated!! :). 
  • Finger games
    • Flexible knuckles
    • Rotation of the stick
    • Flexible fingers (?) - can't read my bad handwriting...
    • Finger lifts 

  • My wrist tends to break when bowing, which I was told should stay aligned with my lower arm. The wrist is always stronger when its aligned, e.g. in martial arts when punching you always want to have the wrist aligned or when doing lifts in dancing - makes sense!
  • He recommended imagining two levers that go through the middle of the forearm and through to my shoulder. By thinking it of levers, my wrist can stay in alignment. 
    • I kind of sort of have it...I understand what he's saying, but it's difficult to implement

Some other exercises that he recommended:

I felt kind of bad for working on Suzuki repertoire since I was supposed to be working on Jazz stuff. I know Clayton has to prepare the material before each lesson since he's never taught jazz cello before.
It's weird - I feel like I'm "cheating" on the other teacher if I ask for help on something I'm working on with the other teacher! I'm sure both of them don't mind and just want me to get better, but still... Is that weird? ;).

In partner dancing, it's important to get as many lessons from different instructors because each instructor has a different way of explaining things and have different step variations they teach, but I'm not sure if that is the case with taking instruction for instruments. From what I've read, most cellists have the same teacher for a really long time.

Yaay - I'm finally caught up with my lesson notes! :).

I have 5 days to post Allegretto and Andantino. I've been slacking on my cello practice and have been watching Season 8's SYTYCD instead! I'll have to put that on hold until I get caught up with my cello practice.  


  1. hey there, juz wanna drop by to say hello since it has been ages last time i commented something here :)

    Cello-ing for me has been a little slow lately now that i am all tied up with moving out to new house and not to mention my one and only teacher is on vacation - only 1 class in this whole month!

    Even though he left me with plenty to practice, i share your concern on practising something that might be incorrect. I am left with this 'barely-moving-chicken wing' bowing (cannot remember the name, sorry :P detache or something) to practice on superfast Czardas' allegro vivace - which is very easy to get wrong, technically, and now i am a little worried and try to dodge myself from practising!

    On a bright side, I am forced to revisit my basic bowing when i feel like cello-ing, which I am pretty sure how ( I hope!) and glad to find more and more weaknesses and flaws to improve upon.

    Much like you, I am now experimenting where to bow on and found out that on my A string, it sounds better when i bow near to bridge - not the sul ponticello close though! Now that really helps my Air on G-string sounds way better :)

    Anyway, Happy Xmas and New Year :) Looking forward to a better cello-playing year ahead :D Oh, and your Allegretto and Andantino vids too :P

  2. Hey Thaddaeus!

    Hope you had a great Christmas! ;)

    Yeah, cello-ing has been slow for me too. It's harder to keep motivated with no cello teachers around. I always think, "I'd better have this by the next lesson," but now, I don't have the urgency to get much done. ;)

    By the way, thanks for the tip on focusing on the pinky on the upbows - that has COMPLETELY and drastically improved my upbows! I was hardly using my pinky at all...oops...

    Have a wonderful New Year too, and get some cello-ing done! =p